It seems like old news now, but last year, when the actor Alec Baldwin got kicked off a plane for acting belligerent, I understood his psyche.
Apparently it was Alec’s turn to make a move in Words With Friends, a Scrabble-like game available for smart phones. According to news reports, he locked himself in an airplane lavatory just before takeoff, so he could take an extra minute to come up with a reply to his virtual opponent’s last effort.
He probably was contemplating how to use that triple-word spot, or struggling with a slate of too many vowels or consonants. Or, perhaps he was trying every possible option for using a K (5 points) or Z (10 points).
I’m guessing that Alec is a hyper-competitive guy – most successful people are – and that his drive to rack up points eclipsed his ability to think rationally, along the lines of, “The FAA requires all passengers to be in their seats with electronic devices turned off before takeoff.”
I can relate to Alec’s presumed affinity for games. I, too, have a bit of a Words With Friends (WTF) habit, and I have been known to complete plays at inappropriate times, such as at stop lights, while waiting for pasta to cook, as I’m brushing my teeth or lying in bed just after the morning alarm has sounded.
For me, part of the allure certainly is the contact with friends, but my enjoyment goes much deeper than in one-upping them; I get personal satisfaction from coming up with high-point words.
While I work part-time (as a writer, editor and French teacher), my current career(s) is not as fulfilling as when I was a full-time journalist. Back then, I knew when I had done a good job, and received pay raises and positive performance reviews as affirmation.
To read more about how puzzles provide satisfaction as well as brain flexibility, click here and jump to the PermissionSlips post. And, if you want to receive the posts in your email each week, send a message to PermissionSlips1@gmail.com. My friend and colleague Carol Gullstad and I take turns updating our blog each week.